I was just checking out this week’s episode of Create & Orchestrate, a video series of entrepreneurial insights by Nashville-area startup vet and investor Marcus Whitney. The episode focused on the idea of effort capacity, which is essentially the amount of time and energy you are able to put forth on a given thing at a given time. It struck me as a good way to think about time management because it forces you to make a distinction between high-impact and low-impact work and consider if you’re making enough room for the former. If your capacity for making effort on the really meaningful stuff is not very high, your chances of doing anything but treading water aren’t great.
RescueTime is a great tool for wrapping your head around your current effort capacity and making changes to increase it over time.
Understanding your effort capacity
Start by taking a look at your RescueTime productive activities report (requires RescueTime login) for the past month (maybe even add a time filter so it’s just Mon-Fri during work hours). Try to identify activities that are really key to pushing yourself forward. Most people find a lot of the productive work they do is tactical day-to-day stuff that, while necessary, may not be the thing that will break them through to the next level. Churning through emails, meetings, customer support, bug fixes or status reports can all easily fall into this category (obviously there are always exceptions). Subtract those activities from your time, and you get a pretty good idea of how much time you actually have for more high-impact strategic work. Far too many people assume they have 40 hours a week to do solid meaningful work. The actual number is often a fraction of that.
Adjusting your effort capacity
Once you know how much time you have, the game becomes all about finding ways to maximize it. There’s going to be all sorts of possibilities for this. Some really easy low-hanging fruit, but also some things that require tinkering and experimentation.
Here are a few of my personal tactics for squeezing more availability into my day:
- An automatic 30 minute FocusTime session every weekday morning when I get started to keep me from getting lost in rounds of catch-up on news, blogs, & social media.
- I have FocusTime linked up to my Slack account so I’m not interrupted during times that I want to focus.
- An alert that goes off after I’ve been in our support portal for more than 1 hour, reminding me not to let it take up my entire day. I have similar alerts for time spent in email, Google Hangouts, etc.
- I have specific goals set up for design, software development, and strategizing. I review them in my weekly summary emails and make adjustments as needed.
What tricks do you have for increasing your capacity for meaningful work? Here’s Marcus’s take on it which got me thinking about it in the first place: